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Tata Open Maharashtra: Cilic survives scare to enter last eight

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Roberto Carballes Baena took some shaking off by World No. 17 and top seed Marin Cilic, who was playing his first match of the new season. The thrilling 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 contest put the tournament favourite into the quarter-finals at the fifth edition of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune on Wednesday. Baena played a solid match, before Cilic ended the resistance.

The crowd would welcome Cilic back to Pune noisily, but Baena had serve breaks on his mind – Cilic got away in the first set, but was left hopping a tad as the ball zipped through the air.

“Always important to start well and a win like that gives a lot of positives. We are coming through the off-season, working hard and practising. But it’s not the same when you come to the court,” the Croat said later.

A couple of upsets panned out. World No. 60 Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi packed off last year’s runner-up Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-1, 7-6 (4) while World No. 62 Spaniard Pedro Martinez came from behind twice for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over fourth-seeded Argentine Sebastian Baez, ranked 43.

Mercurial No. 8 seed Arslan Karatsev of Russia was stretched by Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8). The Netherlands’ breakthrough star Botic Van De Zandschulp sent away Italian youngster Flavio Cobolli 7-5, 6-4.

Botic too was banking on good preseason work to pull him through two stiff back-to-back matches. “I had preseason so hopefully, I am fit enough to play a couple of matches in a row,” he said.

Struggling at first, to find his radar, he would eventually string together a bunch of good games and start playing well when he fell behind against the qualifier. “He (Cobolli) already had three matches, so it was easy for him. When I was 5-2 behind, I started playing my best tennis. In the second set also, I was 4-1 behind but did a good job out there,” he would say, playing his singles match almost 16 hours after the doubles last night. “In the day, it’s different. But it’s good to get a match on the Centre Court, makes the next one easier,” he added.

Martinez had to haul back his game from a pool of mistakes, as he found his range in the second making fewer unforced errors. It was his second straight three-setter. “I’ve had a good preseason for such situations training in my hometown. It was gym to court, court to gym… And I worked a lot on fitness and movement on court,” he said.



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